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Civitas or The Institute for the Study of Civil Society is a London based right-wing think-tank which until 2000 was the Health and Welfare Unit of the Institute of Economic Affairs. In a March 2009 presentation Tim Montgomerie and Matthew Elliott described Civitas as part of the infrastructure of the conservative movement in Britain.[1]

Civitas, 55 Tufton Street, London SW1 - shared with New Culture Forum and next door to the Centre for Policy Studies

Origins and history

Civitas started life as the IEA Health & Welfare Unit of the neoliberal think-tank the Institute of Economic Affairs and was spun-off as an independent think-tank in 2000. [2]

The Institute of Economic Affairs was set up in the mid-1950s by Antony Fisher, an Old Etonian who made his fortune by pioneering US battery farming techniques in the UK. Fisher had joined the Mont Pelerin Society, a group of right-wing intellectuals who were highly critical of the post-war consensus around government intervention in the economy. He was advised by one of the Society’s leading thinkers, Friedrich Hayek, that rather than going into politics as he planned, he should spread neoliberal ideas by targeting intellectual opinion. [3] Fisher therefore founded IEA and recruited the Cambridge-trained economist Ralph Harris as director, and Arthur Seldon as research director. [4] Through its promotion of free market theorists like Milton Friedman the IEA provided an intellectual rationale for business friendly political and economic reforms introduced by the Thatcher government in the UK.

In October 1986 IEA set up a Health Unit headed by David Green. The Unit was semi-autonomous sharing Trustees and offices with IEA but with its own advisors and fund-raising operations. [5] It was renamed the Health and Welfare Unit in mid-1989. [6]

In 1991, after Margaret Thatcher was removed from power, there was speculation that the Health and Welfare Unit might break off from IEA and develop closer links with another right-wing think-tank, the Social Affairs Unit, which had previously shared offices with the IEA. [7] The Independent reported that:

Some Matherites [supporters of IEA’s director Graham Mather in an internal feud] claim the head of the Health and Welfare Unit, Dr David Green, might be raising money to split the unit away from the IEA with the help of Michael Novak, the American free marketeer who wrote The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism and who visited the unit this summer.

Dr Green said that as an employee of the IEA ‘it would not be proper to pass comment on the general director’. He said it might prove fruitful to ‘co-operate loosely’ with the Social Affairs Unit, but there was ‘no prospect of the Health and Welfare Unit leaving the IEA’. [8]

Neoliberal think-tanks shift to focus on the family

Historically there had been a de facto division between the neoliberal think tanks which concentrated on neoliberal reform and the 'pro-family' movement - sometimes called the 'moral right'. As late as 1993 Martin Durham was arguing that ‘despite a recent increase in interest in family issues on the part of New right think-tanks, the “pro-family” movement continues to be organizationally independent of the New Right and distinct in its political priorities’.[9]

However, the rise of neoconservative ideas and the perceived need to fill the moral void left by neoliberalism seems to have brought the two elements of conservative politics together. One key writer was Patricia Morgan who ‘had been thanked by Lord Joseph for her help with his 1990 pamphlet’ for the Centre for Policy Studies.[10][11]

She had written on the family on a number of occasions, ‘covering a range of issues from adoption and childcare to unmarried parenthood and divorce. Family and Youth Concern, the Centre for Policy Studies and another New Right think tank, the Social Affairs Unit, have all published her writings, but the IEA Health and Welfare Unit has been particularly associated with her work, publishing her extended consideration of the state of the British family in 1995 (and a second edition in 1999).[12] The rise of single motherhood, she argued, was leading to men’s failure to find their role as husband and father. Without this, “a police state to suppress the men and… a childcare state to manage the children’ was likely to emerge. In 2000, the Institute for the Study of Civil Society published her critique of cohabitation.’[13][10] Durham notes that Morgan ‘was often quoted in the enthusiastically “pro-family” (and anti-Blair) Daily Mail.'[10]

Reinventing Civil Society

In January 1994 the IEA published Reinventing Civil Society: The Rediscovery of Welfare Without Politics by David Green. In the book Green argued that the New Right had focused too much on economic reforms at the expense of the moral and social aspects of right-wing thought:

Today’s challenge is no longer to show the superiority of markets over central planning, but to deepen understanding of that complex of institutions which makes possible, not only prosperity, but rather progress in all spheres of human existence, whether in art, education, welfare, morals, religion, community service, neighbourly help, or anything else; and, no less important, which allows for human diversity without endangering freedom and the safety of the streets. [14]

Thatcherism had placed ‘inadequate emphasis on the “civic virtues”, such as self-sacrifice, duty, solidarity and service of others,’ Green wrote, ‘The challenge we face today is to identify a sense of community or solidarity that is compatible with freedom.’ [15] In other words it was necessary to develop institutions which could create a sense of moral and social solidarity that would not threaten private property or involve any expansion of the public sector. He therefore advocated the establishment of ‘voluntary associations’ modelled on the Friendly Societies of the 18th and 19th century.

In the Acknowledgements section of the book Green thanked the Esmée Fairbairn Charitable Trust for ‘its generous support of the three-year programme of research and study which made possible the production of this book.’ [16] He wrote that the book had reflected ten years of continuing conversation with Arthur Seldon and Ralph Harris and also thanked Norman Dennis and his friend Michael Novak of the American Enterprise Institute who he said had ‘become a frequent visitor to the IEA during the last four years.’ Earlier in December 1993, Michael Novak's colleague at the American Enterprise Institute, Charles Murray, had attended a lunch at IEA also attended by the Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. Murray was known for his argument that welfare policy had created an underclass in Britain which needed to be stemmed through punitive cuts in welfare services. [17] According to Melanie Phillips another influence on Green during this period was Francis Fukuyama's book The Great Disruption, in which he writes of the need for the state to restore 'social capital'. [18]


The split with the Institute of Economic Affairs was first reported in the Sunday Times by Melanie Phillips in February 2000. She wrote that, 'The new institute could provoke a realignment of thought that reshapes our political landscape again, altering the way we order our welfare state and modifying our social values.' [19] Its website was registered on 25 November 1999 and it was incorporated as a UK company (limited by guarantee) on 29 June 2000. It was launched in August 2000 with Ralph Harris as its Chairman [20] and was registered as a charity on 12 March 2001. [21]

Current and former directors

The table below displays information on the current and former directors of Civitas Ltd as registered with Companies House. Nominee directors are excluded. The current directors (i.e. those where no resignation date is provided) are displayed first, followed by the company’s former directors.

The earliest directors were David Green and Robert Whelan who served from the date of incorporation in June 2000. Six further board members were appointed in February 2001.

Name of Board Member Nationality Stated occupation Date of appointment Date of resignation
Sir Alan Rudge British None 9 June 2015 N/A
Tom Harris British Financial Adviser 4 July 2019 N/A
David Costain British Consultant 7 December 2011 N/A
David Green, Trustee British Trustee 1 January 2022 N/A
David Green, Secretary British Consultant 29 June 2000 N/A
Justin Shaw British Self-Emplyed Writer 6 February 2001 N/A
Kenneth Minogue British Academic 6 February 2001 30 June 2013
Silvia Le Marchant British None 12 February 2003 15 June 2016
Arthur Myers New Zealand Retired 12 February 2003 12 June 2013
Phillip Brown British Consultant 9 December 2003 25 March 2015
Lord Nigel Vinson British Retired 14 September 2004 1 April 2021
Margaret Allen USA Director Dramla SA Geneva 22 May 2007 12 July 2022
Ivan Bradbury British Engineer 11 September 2007 10 June 2020
Michael Stone British Retired 9 December 2008 14 September 2010
David Green British Research, Institute Director 29 June 2000 31 December 2001
Robert Whelan British Consultant 26 June 2000 31 December 2001
Ralph Harris British Retired 6 February 2001 14 June 2005
Harold Rose British Economist 6 February 2001 23 May 2006
Patrick Barbour British Director 6 February 2001 15 June 2010
Peter Walters British Company Director 6 February 2001 15 June 2010

Political orientation

It has been claimed that Civitas has left-wing staff and a following on the left. At the time that Civitas broke off from the Institute of Economic Affairs Melanie Phillips wrote that, 'Under David Green, the health and welfare unit built up a reputation for work on social issues that crossed party boundaries. People on the left may have hidden behind dark glasses and raised collars when they sidled into this free-market redoubt - but they turned up.' [22] In March 2003 Robert Whelan, then Assistant Director at Civitas, told the Independent on Sunday: 'Most people on this floor are a bit fed up with the way people bracket some of us as left-wing, some of us as right-wing, we just don't see it in those sort of terms.' Adele Blakebrough, founder of the Community Action Network, then based in the same building said she always sees more socialists at Civitas's regular lunches. [23]

Frank Furedi formely leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party and currently of the LM network in a pamphlet published by Civitas. The pamphlet also featured articles by moral conservative stalwart Robert Whelan and LM network associate Alex Standish

Civitas set up the Centre for Social Cohesion in 2007, with funding of £274,669.[24]The Centre's director is Douglas Murray, author of Neoconservatism: Why we need it.[25]

Civitas on Islam

Anthony Browne highlighted Britain's Muslim community in his November 2002 Civitas pamphlet, Do We Need Mass Immigration?.

As I write this, the UK is heading for war with Iraq, and even moderate Muslim leaders are warning the government of the impact on social relations with Britain’s two million strong Muslim community if Britain does attack another Muslim country (the less moderate leaders are warning that it will bring suicide bombing to Britain). Whatever the merits or demerits of war on Iraq, it is hardly a national strength to have a large minority with such divided loyalties during war.[26]

Civitas published The ‘West’, Islam and Islamism: Is ideological Islam compatible with liberal democracy? by Caroline Cox and John Marks in June 2003.[27] The pamphlet's methodology was based on a distinction between Western societies on the one hand and 'ideological societies' on the other, a category which lumps together fascism, communism and 'Islamism'.[28]

The propaganda battles of the Cold War, as understood through the work of figures such as neoconservative propaganda theorist Roy Godson and through Cox and Marks' own earlier writing, were cited as a precedent for the struggle with Islamism.[29]

it was the long ideological battles of the Cold War and the massive efforts by Marxists to subvert, and thus to subdue, Western societies from within that was most difficult for the citizens of these societies to understand and thus effectively to resist.[30]

Similar tactics were attributed to Islamists by Cox and Marks, but the possibility they might be used by Western societies was not considered.

The tactics used in the current Islamist attack on Western societies resemble those used by Marxists in the last century —deceptions of many kinds together with the drip, feeder and multiplier effects which enhance the overall effectiveness of the committed ideologists even if their numbers are not large.[31]

The 1997 Runnymede Trust report Islamophobia - A Challenge for us all is cited as an example of the 'drip effect.'[32]

Cox and Marks drew a distinction between moderate Muslims and ideological Islamists, but argued that "the distinction depends in practice on moderate Muslims being more forthright in distinguishing themselves from their ideological co-religionists."[33]

Patrick West's September 2005, Civitas book The Poverty of Multiculturalism criticised local councils for funding Islamic Awareness week while refusing to celebrate Christian festivals.[34] This formed part of a wider critique of multiculturalism as cultural relativism.

Cultural relativism, the philosophy that no culture is superior to another, is one of today’s widely accepted doctrines. In the twenty-first century, to assert the superiority of Western civilisation over any other culture elicits accusations of eurocentricism, arrogance or even racism.[35]

Civitas published A Nation of Immigrants? by David Conway in April 2007.[36] The pamphlet argued that current levels of immigration are historically unprecedented and threaten the reproduction of Britain's political culture.

Of late, there has been a growing realisation of the plausibility of some such claim in light of the discovery that all four suicide bombers of 7 July 2005 were British-born, second generation British Muslims who had grown up in Britain in highly segregated enclaves in which normal patterns of acculturation into mainstream British life have apparently become far harder to sustain. It is particularly in light of how quickly and recently many such enclaves have sprung up in Britain, and are continuing to grow apace, that all those who want to see Britain remain the stable, liberal, and tolerant country it has been for so long need to consider carefully how much truth or falsehood is contained in the claim hat Britain is and has always been a nation of immigrants.[37]

In February 2009, Civitas published Music, Chess and Other Sins, a pamphlet on Muslim schools by Denis MacEoin with the assistance of Dominic Whiteman. It argued that some Muslim schools "are threatening the social cohesion of Britain by promoting a fundamentalist version of Islam that encourages children to despise the British society in which they live and to confine themselves to enclaves.".[38]

In May 2009, the think-tank published the pamphlet Disunited Kingdom: How the Government's Community Cohesion Agenda Undermines British Identity and Nationhood , in which David Conway argued that "the main threats to community cohesion in Britain today come from mass immigration and the radicalisation of young British-born Muslims."[39]

Against the definition of Islamophobia

Civitas drafted an open letter to the Home Secretary Sajid Javid in 2019 opposing the defintion of Islamophobia developed by the APPG on British Muslims.[40]


On Immigration

Civitas' work on immigration was criticised in 2004 by journalist Faisal Islam:

The Government's estimate of a £2.5 billion gain to the Exchequer from immigration came under fire last week from right-wing think tank Civitas. It managed to calculate a marginally negative figure, lapped up as proof of mass scrounging by Britain's immigrants.
But the figure was a result of subtracting the cost of running the immigration service from the taxes paid by immigrants. But is it right to count the cost of controlling immigration - essentially our political choice - against the workers' tax contribution? Plenty more arbitrary fiscal benefits, such as the fact that almost all immigrants come ready-schooled by their own state, could be added to counter the Civitas figures.[41]

Healthcare Reform

Civitas advocates market-based reform of the NHS and for a bigger role for the private sector in providing NHS services.

According to its website, the Civitas health unit was set up to 'facilitate informed and impartial debate among key stakeholders, patients, and the grassroots of the medical profession, in order to help build consensus on the future of health care in the UK.[42]

Civitas has been critical of the Conservative's proposed reforms of the health service put forward by Andrew Lansley. As well as criticizing Lanley's plan to hand NHS budgets to GPs, it slammed the Conservatives' plans to open up the NHS market, claiming 'the mechanism does not seem strong enough to drive the required improvements, unless a number of issues are addressed'. These included the inability of private firms to access private NHS pensions and 'ridiculously long' tendering times."[43]

Healthcare publications

  • Refusing Treatment: the NHS and market-based reform, Civitas report, October 2010. According to the report's authors, Laura Brereton and James Gubb of Civitas, market reforms are "having significant positive effects on quality, efficiency, innovation and patient-focus." However, it notes that "the market has thus far failed to deliver such benefits on any systematic scale...because it has been stifled and not allowed to bed in."[44] Barriers identified by the study include 'an uneven playing field between NHS and private/voluntary sector providers' and a 'deep cultural reverence for the NHS as something more than a health system.'
  • Patients benefit from broadening boundaries of NHS care
, article in the Yorkshire Post, October 2010. This advoctaed "a new public consciousness" away from "the NHS as a culturally revered system of provision" and towards a competitive system with "new entrants with new ideas".[45]
  • BMA to shut out independent sector from NHS is misguided. A Civitas press release in February 2010 accused the British Medical Association, the doctors’ trade union, of 'politicising health care on cherry-picked evidence' in its bid to 'stop commercially run firms providing NHS care and end the market in the NHS, to patients.'[46] Civitas responds by maintains that the quality of care is typically higher in Independent Sector Treatment Centres (ISTCs) than the NHS, and ISTCs cause NHS providers to drive performance in a way that would not happen without a competitive threat. It quotes a survey commissioned by the NHS Partners Network claiming 74% of those polled said the NHS needed 'to change to survive'; and 74% more closely align themselves with the statement 'I don't mind who owns or runs my NHS services so long as the quality is right' than 'Services on the NHS should only be conducted in a hospital or other medical facilities run and owned by the government'.
  • The market can help the NHS, opinion piece by James Gubb in the Guardian, February 2010. This reiterates much of the above press release.[47]
  • Markets in health care: the theory behind the policy, Civitas report, December 2009. Authors James Gubb and Oliver Meller-Herbert argue that "Health care, due to its high upfront costs and centrality to humankind, is often considered ‘different’ and best left outside the domain of markets. But such blanket opposition ignores valid reasons for not dismissing the value markets." The report concludes that "The central challenge for policymakers in health care is best framed less as a choice between markets and the alternatives; more as to the optimum balance between them.[48]

Healthcare, People

  • James Gubb is the Director of the Health Unit at Civitas.


Civitas Accounts 2001
Civitas Accounts 2002
Civitas Accounts 2003
Civitas Accounts 2004
Civitas Accounts 2005
Civitas Accounts 2006
Civitas Accounts 2007
Civitas Accounts 2008
Civitas Accounts 2009


Academic Advisory Council


Patrons and Founder Patrons

Living Marxism Connections

Several former members of Living Marxism have contributed to Civitas reports. These include:

Contact, Affilliations, Resources, Notes


First Floor
55 Tufton Street

Formerly of: 10 Storey's Gate, Westminster [50]




  1. Tim Montgomerie, The growth of Britain's conservative movement, ConservativeHome, 14 March 2009.
  2. Internet Archive, Civitas, About the Institute, 9 November 2000
  3. Tory! Tory! Tory!, broadcast Friday, 10 August from 2340 BST on BBC Four. See also Brian Wheeler, 'Tory! Tory! Tory! (Part one)', BBC News Online, 8 March 2006.
  4. Brian Wheeler, 'Tory! Tory! Tory! (Part one)', BBC News Online, 8 March 2006.
  5. Robert Chote, ‘Thatcher fallout buffets IEA’, Independent, 16 September 1991; p.21
  6. ‘Tanked up’, The Economist, 6 May 1989; p.28; David Green, ‘Policies for all reasons in a Tory vacuum; Food white paper’, The Times, 28 July 1989
  7. Robert Chote, ‘Thatcher fallout buffets IEA’, Independent, 16 September 1991; p.21
  8. Robert Chote, ‘Thatcher fallout buffets IEA’, Independent, 16 September 1991; p.21
  9. Martin Durham, ‘The New Right, moral crusades and the politics of the family’, ‘’Economy and Society’’, Volume 22, Issue 2, 1993, Pages 253 – 256
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Martin Durham ‘The Conservative Party, New Labour and the politics of the family’, ‘’Parliamentary Affairs’’, 54 (3): 459. (2001)
  11. Keith Joseph ‘’Rewards of Parenthood? Towards More Equitable Tax Treatment’’, Centre for Policy Studies, 1990.
  12. Patricia Morgan ‘’Farewell to the Family: Publc Policy and Family Breakdown in Britain and the USA’’, IEA Health and Welfare Unit, 1999, second ed.
  13. Patricia Morgan ‘’Marriage-Lite: The Rise of Cohabitation and its Consequences’’, Institute for the Study of Civil Society, 2000
  14. David G. Green, Reinventing Civil Society: The Rediscovery of Welfare Without Politics (Civitas, 1993) p.1
  15. David G. Green, Reinventing Civil Society: The Rediscovery of Welfare Without Politics (Civitas, 1993) p.1
  16. David G. Green, Reinventing Civil Society: The Rediscovery of Welfare Without Politics (Civitas, 1993) p.vii.
  17. Geraldine Bedell, 'An underclass warrior; Geraldine Bedell on the American brains behind the Government's morality campaign', Independent, 9 January 1994; p.19
  18. PDF Copy of Charities Commission, Civitas > Charity framework, created 19 August 2010
  19. Melanie Phillips, 'It's the next big idea: who is smart enough to take it up?', The Sunday Times, 27 February 2000
  20. PDF of IEA, About the IEA: chronology, <> created 19 March 2010
  21. PDF Copy of Charities Commission, Civitas > Charity framework, created 19 August 2010
  22. Melanie Phillips, 'It's the next big idea: who is smart enough to take it up?', The Sunday Times, 27 February 2000
  23. Robert Hanks, 'Welcome to Wonk Central', Independent on Sunday, 16 March 2003
  24. Report and Financial Statements for the year ended 31 December 2007.
  25. CV,, accessed 30 May 2009.
  26. Anthony Brown, Do We Need Mass Immigration?, Civitas, November 2002.
  27. Caroline Cox and John Marks, The ‘West’, Islam and Islamism: Is ideological Islam compatible with liberal democracy?, Civitas, accessed 31 May 2009.
  28. Caroline Cox and John Marks, The ‘West’, Islam and Islamism: Is ideological Islam compatible with liberal democracy?, Civitas, accessed 31 May 2009, p.9.
  29. Caroline Cox and John Marks, The ‘West’, Islam and Islamism: Is ideological Islam compatible with liberal democracy?, Civitas, accessed 31 May 2009, p.9 note 13.
  30. Caroline Cox and John Marks, The ‘West’, Islam and Islamism: Is ideological Islam compatible with liberal democracy?, Civitas, accessed 31 May 2009, p.9.
  31. Caroline Cox and John Marks, The ‘West’, Islam and Islamism: Is ideological Islam compatible with liberal democracy?, Civitas, accessed 31 May 2009, pp.62-63.
  32. Caroline Cox and John Marks, The ‘West’, Islam and Islamism: Is ideological Islam compatible with liberal democracy?, Civitas, accessed 2 June 2009, pp.64.
  33. Caroline Cox and John Marks, The ‘West’, Islam and Islamism: Is ideological Islam compatible with liberal democracy?, Civitas, accessed 2 June 2009, p.74.
  34. Patrick West, The Poverty of Multiculturalism, Civitas, 25 September 2005, p.7.
  35. Patrick West, The Poverty of Multiculturalism, Civitas, 25 September 2005, p.1.
  36. A Nation of Immigrants? A Brief Demographic History of Britain,, accessed 31 May 2009.
  37. Unparalleled levels of immigration threaten Britain's cohesion as a nation, Civitas, 23 April 2007.
  38. Music, chess, Shakespeare, cricket and Harry Potter banned on fundamentalist Muslim schools' websites, Civitas, 20 February 2009.
  39. New Publications, Civitas, accessed 31 May 2009.
  40. Civitas Open Letter: APPG Islamophobia Definition Threatens Civil Liberties
  41. Faisal Islam, Foreign workers: fact and fiction: Immigrants are vital to the British economy, whatever the tabloids say, says Faisal Islam, Observer, 11 April 2004, p.4.
  42. Civitas Health Unit. Health Unit Accessed 8 April 2010.
  43. Pulse, Right-wing think tank in scathing attack on Conservatives' GP plans, 30 Apr 2010
  44. Civitas: Refusing Treatment: the NHS and market-based reform, Summary, 4 October 2010
  45. James Gubb, Patients benefit from broadening boundaries of NHS care, 5 Oct 2010
  46. Civitas Press. BMA to shut out independent sector from NHS is misguided Accessed 10 April 2010.
  47. James Gubb, The market can help the NHS, Guardian, 15 Feb 2010
  48. Civitas report, Markets in health care: the theory behind the policy (PDF), 18 December 2010
  49. Civitas, About - Patrons, accessed 19 June 2009